Digital Assets & Disability or Death

November 1, 2015
Uncategorized

Did you know you probably have digital assets?  Digital assets are property stored or existing exclusively in digital form.  Digital assets that have sentimental value or social value include digital photos, a myriad of social media venues, home movies, and blogs.  However, the digital world has expanded well beyond our social lives and is an integrated part of our business and financial lives. 

Examples of digital assets that actually have monetary value include a PayPal account, a retail store account with a credit balance (such as Amazon.com), media such as movies or games that you have purchased, digital loyalty programs, and even virtual currency or game assets.  Also, a business domain name has a monetary value. And, it is likely that your digital fingerprint also includes passwords to your online bank account, email address, social media pages, retail shopping sites…even programs that you use to do your taxes such as Turbo Tax. 

Traditionally, powers of attorney and wills, as in your last will and testament, have not addressed these digital assets.  If you have your mother’s power of attorney, do you have the power to request the password for her PayPal account, bank account, and Facebook page? Likely not.  Attorneys are only now starting to understand the importance of including authority over these assets under a general power of attorney.  Likewise, unless your will empowers the executor to access and control these accounts, court approval may be required before an account can be accessed, liquidated, or transferred. 

Recommendation: 

Create an inventory of your digital assets and schedule an appointment with your attorney to be survey our digital assets are properly addressed in your power of attorney, will and/or trust.  Consider all of your online interactions: social networking profiles and passwords; email addresses, user IDs, and passwords; computer and smart phone usernames and passwords; domain names and web pages; online financial accounts; digital photo and media accounts; retail accounts (with whom you carry a balance or have stored credit card information) usernames and passwords; and downloaded purchased software usernames and passwords.